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EXCLUSIVE - ICT strategy and projects for enhancing State Government service delivery to the public and business sector in Penang

Dato' Haji Ghazali bin Derahman has been in the position of Deputy State Secretary, Penang State Secretariat Office and Chief Information Officer (CIO) for Penang State Government in Malaysia, since December 2014. As the State CIO, he has contributed to the development of ICT Strategic Plan for Penang State Secretariat Office and eight state departments.

OpenGov had the opportunity to conduct an interview with Dato' Haji Ghazali, wherein he discussed ICT strategy and ongoing projects in the areas of big data analytics, open data, mobile government and geospatial information system. He told us about working with various government departments in Penang, coordinating with Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU) and other central government agencies and building public-private partnerships for delivering fast and efficient digital transformation.

Could you tell us about your role as Chief Information Officer of the State of Penang?

As the Deputy State Secretary of Penang and the State CIO, I am responsible to strategically plan and monitor the progress of ICT initiatives with focus on enhancing the State Government service delivery to the public and business sectors. As the CIO, my job is also to lead and acculturate collaborations amongst state agencies.

What is the ICT strategy for the State? What are your short-to-medium term areas of focus?

We started our journey with the first well planned ICT Strategic Plan (or in short ISP) for 2005 to 2010 and subsequently 2011 to 2015. On November 24. 2015, the new ICT Strategic Plan for 2016 to 2020 was launched. The ISP is aligned to the organisation strategic plan and the Public Sector ISP developed by MAMPU. Five strategic thrusts, 14 strategies, 36 programs and 54 projects were outlined in this new ISP. The main focus areas under the five strategic thrusts are:

  • Enhancing ICT infrastructure and security
  • Strengthening development of high-impact application
  • Strengthening ICT acculturation among employees (focusing on capacity building & certification)
  • Enhancing governance and;
  • empowerment of state government service delivery

3. What are the major projects/initiatives that you are working on?

The major initiatives that we are currently working on are:

  • Big Data Analytics Projects – Six big data analytic projects were identified under five main business case clusters i.e. Transportation & Traffic, Socio-economy, Environment and Integrity which will be implemented in phases. Three BDA projects will be implemented this year i.e. Traffic Management and Solid Waste Management under both local councils in Penang and Allocation of Affordable Housing for the low and middle income group. 

The Data Coordination Committee at state level, chaired by the State CIO, was set up. The committee's main TOR (terms of reference) is to coordinate and ensure the readiness and quality data sets to be shared and leveraged across agencies and the public for the successful implementation of the big data plan. Collaborations on data from various departments and external data are the essence to derive more meaningful insights through predictive and prescriptive analytics, that will support and enhance better planning and decision-making at State level. 

We also plan to expand our policy on geospatial data sharing towards a more holistic and dynamic Penang State Government data sharing policy.  We hope a policy or act on data sharing at national level will soon be established to further enhance collaborations amongst government agencies and also the private sector.
  • Penang Alert Portal – The portal is a source to disseminate a variety of public related information for the benefit of the public.  We also intend to collaborate with individuals and local private sectors who are interested to use and add value to our data, such as public complaints and information related to road closure, weather, disaster etc. via apps and web channels.

We are currently engaging with the Drainage and Irrigation Department of Malaysia, District and Land Offices, the Malaysia Civil Defence Department, the Meteorological Department and subsequently, with external entities such as BetterPenang [1] and Waze[2].

  • Penang Integrated Data Portal – We plan to expand and upgrade existing Inter-Agency Data Collaboration System as the State Integrated Data Portal, which will also function as the State Open Data Portal. The open data sets in this portal will enhance the existing collaboration with MAMPU which is spearheading the National Open Data Portal (data.gov.my).
  • Mobile Government – We are expanding our e-services delivery to the public via the mobile channel.  We plan to do this in phases and have started this initiative since 2015.
  • Penang Geospatial Initiative – Penang is the first state to implement a state-wide GIS (Geographic Information System) initiative. The initiative started in 1992 with the involvement and collaboration of several geospatial data provider departments and agencies.

Currently, we have more than 400 layers of geospatial data sets. The number is expected to increase (estimated around 1000 data sets) by 2018, when main geospatial data provider departments and agencies will use map services to publish and share geospatial data through Penang GIS (PeGIS) platform.

Can you tell us about the use of technologies in areas such as big data analytics and cloud computing for delivering better government services or promoting digital economy? How is data being stored, managed and processed by the various government agencies?

For big data analytics, we are looking into technologies such as Hadoop as platform for data lakes and data mining. We are also exploring a few leading analytics tools in the market.  We intend to provide a shared centralized big data platform (cloud computing as an option) for storing, managing and processing data from various government agencies.

How do you work with the different government departments in the state and their IT divisions?

The main function of the Penang State Secretariat (PSUKPP), as the lead state government agency in Penang, is to work and collaborate with various government departments in Penang.

Under the eGood Governance Steering Committee (eGG) i.e. the ICT Steering Committee chaired by the Honourable State Secretary, ICT policies and standards are tabled and approved, while decisions related to state policies are forwarded/ conveyed  to the Executive Council Meeting (Exco) for approval. 

The eGG is also responsible for giving directives and monitoring the progress of ICT projects and initiatives.  All state departments and agencies adopt the State ICT policy, since PSUKPP provides the ICT infrastructure to all state departments including providing shared data centre and disaster recovery centre services.

Do you work with MAMPU and other central government agencies in some areas or projects?

We have been collaborating with MAMPU for many years, since MAMPU is the lead central agency for the modernization and transformation of Public Service Administration.  We seek their ICT Consultancy services for projects related to big data initiatives and development of ICT Strategic Plan. We also collaborate on various ICT projects such as MyID, MyMesyuarat 2.0, Star Rating etc.

Other central government agencies which we collaborate with, to name a few, are MacGDI (Malaysian Centre for Geospatial Data Infrastructure, under Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment), MOSTI (Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation), EPU (the Economic Planning Unit) and the Statistics Department of Malaysia.  In fact, we have close collaboration with MacGDI on the GIS development through PeGIS, a GIS unit within the State ICT Division.

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are getting more common these days with ICT-driven projects and developments. What are your thoughts on PPPs in relation to digital transformation in the State of Penang?

In Penang, we have been engaging with the private sector as our technology partners in implementing projects related to data centre, application development, training and certification, security and many more. 

PPPs is indeed a new way of delivering fast and efficient digital transformation. For ICT initiatives, we have embarked on PPP to implement the Penang Free Wifi, Penang Digital Library and Penang Fiber Forward initiatives.

We also collaborate with private sectors to provide web services and mobile apps via utilising government data for the benefit of the people.

What are some of the challenges you face in your role as CIO and how do you overcome them?

After two years as the CIO for the Penang State Government, some of the main challenges that I face are:

  1. Fast and rapid changes in technology
  2. Limited local partners/solution providers
  3. Innovating digital transformation across State agencies
  4. Affordable and availability of internet/broadband infrastructure
  5. Cyber security challenges and protecting unauthorised information dissemination vs the need for mobility 
  6. Developing internal specialized skilled ICT personnel and SME in new areas such as BDA and Internet-of-Things (IoT)

To overcome these challenges, we focus on a competency building programme for our ICT & SME personnel, collaborating partnerships with technology experts from the private sector, local universities and government agencies. I also feel that establishing a permanent CIO post in the public sector is vital as ICT has played a major role in government digital transformation.

[1] BetterPenang: CAT (Citizen Action Technology) is an community owned platform which allows users to post complaints and ideas.[2] Waze is the world's largest community-based traffic and navigation app.

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